Five illustrations of girls in blue dresses and bows appear against the white canvas. “Show me the ugly child,” says the soft-spoken woman to the young black girl barely above the table’s edge. The illustrations are an array of five different skin shades--light to dark. The little girl’s finger lightly touches the last illustration on the canvas. Her tiny hand darts back.
“And why is she the ugly child?”
“’Cause she’s black.”
In 2011, directing partners D. Channsin Berry and Bill Duke premiered Dark Girls, a documentary centered on colorism and beauty prejudice in the black community at the Toronto Film Festival. On Sunday, the controversial film will make its world television premiere on OWN and it’s one of those films that deserves every bit of recognition.
In the nine minute preview below, black women candidly discuss their experiences with racism and ingrained biases as dark-skinned women in their own communities. The documentary highlights several facets of their lives including dating, self-esteem, and their challenges facing the standards of beauty. One important, overriding theme is the film’s emphasis on young black women and their heartbreaking views on what it means to be beautiful. The illustrated doll study, which was employed by Anderson Cooper 360 in 2010, exemplifies the devastating effects of colorism and bias.
“I used to wish that I could wake up one day lighter or wash my face and think that it would change,” says one young woman.
Another woman describes her reaction to Beyonce’s L’Oreal ad—an image that caused an uproar over its apparent use of skin-lightening in 2008. “I just don’t want to believe that that is still happening this day and age.”
It’s an emotional and revealing rollercoaster that delves deep into the inner layers of racism and institutionalized stigma within and outside Black American culture. Now, more than ever, is when the conversation needs to begin and the film illustrates this beautifully.
For more information, check out the documentary’s official website and Facebook page. Request a screening for your campus, share the trailer on all of your social media sites. Spread the word. It’s an important film, and its lasting effects will surely spark discussions on issues like race and prejudice across the nation.
Dark Girls premieres on Sunday, June 23, at 10 p.m. on OWN.